* S&P 500 poised to rally for an eighth straight day
* New home sales fall in December
* Procter & Gamble profit improves
* Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 25 U.S. stocks advanced on Friday
as Procter & Gamble's earnings offset softer-than-expected
housing numbers and kept the Standard & Poor's 500 Index on
track for its longest winning streak in more than eight years.
Procter & Gamble shares rose 3.7 percent to $73.04
and gave the biggest boost to both the Dow and S&P 500 after the
world's top household products maker's quarterly profit soared
past expectations. The company also raised its sales and
earnings outlook for the fiscal year.
But the stock market's gains were curbed after economic data
showed new U.S. single-family home sales fell in December,
although expectations for a continued housing sector recovery
remain intact. The PHLX housing sector index slipped 0.2
The benchmark S&P 500 index is up 5 percent so far in
January. The equity market's strong start this year has been
attributed to solid corporate results, an agreement in
Washington to extend the government's borrowing power,
encouraging signs from the global economy, and seasonal inflows
Those factors helped the S&P 500 rally for a seventh day on
Thursday to reach a five-year peak. But the index has struggled
to convincingly climb above 1,500, a level it surpassed briefly
on Thursday for the first time since December 2007 and
momentarily topped again on Friday.
"We hit (1,500) yesterday, we've hit it today, it is going
to take a little bit of work to get through it - it's a
psychological resistance point," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief
investment strategist at Windham Financial Services, in
"The housing numbers coming in a little weaker, you would
have expected that with Hurricane Sandy and the fiscal cliff,"
Mendelsohn said. "With everything that was going on in December,
you would expect a little weaker number. Maybe analysts were
looking for a little too much out of that report."
If the S&P 500 rises for an eighth day on Friday, it will be
its longest winning streak since late 2004, when it rallied for
nine straight days.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 31.19 points,
or 0.23 percent, to 13,856.52. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
advanced 3.48 points, or 0.23 percent, to 1,498.30. The
Nasdaq Composite Index rose 13.05 points, or 0.41
percent, to 3,143.43.
Honeywell International Inc posted fourth-quarter
earnings just above Wall Street's estimates, reflecting the
diversified U.S. manufacturer's campaign to boost profit margins
in the face of sluggish sales growth. Honeywell's stock shed 0.3
percent to $68.04.
The initial portion of earnings season has been encouraging
relative to recent expectations. Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter
earnings growth is on track for a 2.9 percent rise, up from the
forecast of a 1.9 percent gain at the start of earnings season,
but well below the 9.9 percent increase in an Oct. 1 forecast.
Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147
S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 68 percent
exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have
topped expectations, while the average over the past four
quarters stands at 65 percent.
Microsoft Corp gained 1.2 percent to $27.95 after
posting a quarterly profit that edged lower as Office software
sales slowed ahead of a new launch, offsetting a solid but
unspectacular start for its Windows 8 operating system.
Halliburton Co shares jumped 5 percent to $39.70
after the world's second-largest oilfield services company
reported higher-than-expected earnings and sales for the fourth
quarter. Strong international drilling activity offset a
slowdown in onshore North America work, Halliburton said.